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Further on the Existence of God

By: admin

Question

How can you be sure that our inherent knowledge of God, of good and evil and our conscience are not something that we are taught and learn from our environment? What generally happens suggests a person grows up in an atheist family will not believe in a deity whereas if they grow up in a believing family they will. Same with growing up in a bad environment – it can affect what they consider bad and what they do not. Same, we normally do not hurt each other because we are told off for it from a very small age, we do not participate in many things because they are supposed rude and inappropriate etc… yet in our secular societies it is normally perfectly appropriate to have girl friends or boy friends and even to have sex outside marriage. The importance of marriage before sex has long disappeared. Whereas when these societies were more religious it was seen necessary to get married first and it was seen as bad manners to be together without this – can you see that all this indicates that rather than being inherent that these are things we learn? So, is “inherent” knowledge of god, good and evil and our “conscience” really a sound and convincing sign of god’s existence? Can it be relied on?

As for the evidence suggesting that the universe was created. How reliable is this? This depends on our inability to imagine it coming about (if at all it had a start) without a conscious “being” behind controlling it. But our inability to make sense of something doesn’t prove it not to be true. The majority at one point couldn’t make sense of the world being spherical but this didn’t make it any less true. Additionally, it would be expected that if the Universe was so convincing then those who study and understand it most would be most convinced by it, so why do the majority of experts in these fields not believe? Why, if it is such nonsense to disbelieve in a creator and controller?

In one of your answers it is said that the Qur’an is free of contradiction and that this is a universal sign of its divine nature? How can this be a “universal sign” when the translations aren’t the same as the original and therefore can contain contradictions? Besides, you also say in one of your answers about the transmission of the Qur’an that some verses may have been left out and that the Book went through a final revision before it’s end to make it clearer – what for? Why? If it is perfect, why revise it? How do we know that what was left out was not contradictory? You explain that the work over a period of twenty three years without contradicting is the sign but we don’t really know since verses were left out, huh?

The above mentioned points seem to be some of the main signs that signify the existence of a divine being according to your site, but how convincing are they and are they really “signs”? It shall be seen in your response it is hoped.

Thank you.

Answer

You write:

How can you be sure that our inherent knowledge of God, of good and evil and our conscience are not something that we are taught and learn from our environment?

If we observe the vast diversity of the various societies, we can see that with all their relative diversity, they entail some glaring common features. These common features include the concepts of a deity – even though there can be differences in the details of this concept – and the basic values relating to right and wrong – even though there can be differences in the application of these values. Furthermore, when deliberating on these common features, we are also confronted with the fact that they clearly do not seem to be imposed from the outside, but we, as human beings, are forced to acknowledge that they are in consonance with the voice of our insides. We know from within that truthfulness is right and a deviation from it should require strong philosophical reasoning. We are inherently aware of the fact that we ourselves or whatever we see around us does not qualify to be our creator. We do not need any arguments to establish the fact that depriving someone of his rights is wrong and this holds equally true for those who turn a deaf ear to their inner voice and wrong others. The Qur’an says:

Woe to those that deal in fraud,- those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. (Al Mutaffifin 83: 1 – 3)

The universal standardization of these features in all the vastly diversified human societies, we consider it only reasonable to say that these values were not consciously agreed upon by the founders of these societies, but, on the contrary, they are only a manifestation of the values inherently ascribed to by all human beings.

You write:

What generally happens suggests a person grows up in an atheist family will not believe in a deity whereas if they grow up in a believing family they will.

I would agree with you. Yet, the point remains that the humankind in general has remained composed mainly of believing families and, thus, believing individuals. The deviation from this tradition has never gained a universal or a general acceptance. Ascribing to the concept of a deity continues to remain the generally treaded path, while atheism remains a philosophy.

If one were to grow up in a group of thieves, one would probably grow up to be an expert thief. Yet, this would not change the fact that one would start considering theft as ‘right’ and would fondly await another thief deprive him of all his accumulated wealth.

You write:

Same, we normally do not hurt each other because we are told off for it from a very small age…

Agreed. However, as I have mentioned earlier, the point remains that this is a universal teaching in all societies and, therefore, an indication of the fact that this teaching emanates from a value held inherently ‘true’ in all human beings.

You write:

…yet in our secular societies it is normally perfectly appropriate to have girl friends or boy friends and even to have sex outside marriage. The importance of marriage before sex has long disappeared.

Sex before or outside marriage is in fact not a basic value, but an application of a combination of values, including those of chastity, loyalty and the sense of responsibility etc. Such applications emanating from basic values can be affected by a number of factors, which, besides the weakening of these values themselves, may include imbalanced legislations, deviation from tradition at such a vast level that the abhorrence for deviated behavior reduces over time, etc. Nevertheless, the important point is to understand that deviated behavior from what one considers to be ‘right’ does not always necessarily challenge the existence of knowledge of ‘right’. As an example, consider the fact that man universally acknowledges the fact that ‘truth’ is ‘right’, yet we know that there would hardly be an individual who has not deviated from this ‘right’. Yet, in the face of all these vast deviations and, sometimes, even acceptance of these deviations, man cannot avoid acknowledging the fact that ‘truth’ still continues to be ‘right’.

You write:

So, is “inherent” knowledge of god, good and evil and our “conscience” really a sound and convincing sign of god’s existence? Can it be relied on?

In my opinion, understanding and observation, it is a very strong sign of the Creator. There can, however, be differences in human understanding and observations.

You write:

As for the evidence suggesting that the universe was created. How reliable is this? This depends on our inability to imagine it coming about (if at all it had a start) without a conscious “being” behind controlling it.

It is indeed possible that something can be true, even if we can’t comprehend it today. Nevertheless, we, humans, have tried to stick to the explanations that did make sense, even in the face of the possibility that they may be proven erroneous after some time. Accepting explanations that would answer the questions relating to a phenomenon has been the gateway of many scientific discoveries and the scientific approach. Rejecting the theory of gravity, for instance, merely on the possibility that another explanation may be given over the next decade would not be considered reasonable or scientific.

You write:

But our inability to make sense of something doesn’t prove it not to be true.

The point is not whether we can make sense of something or not; on the contrary, the point is what should be a reasonable basis of believing something to be a fact? I, for one, would consider it quite unreasonable for a person to ascribe to an idea and promote it merely on the grounds that even if all evidence points against it, there is still a possibility that it might turn out to be true.

You write:

The majority at one point couldn’t make sense of the world being spherical but this didn’t make it any less true.

It is one thing to not being able to make sense of something and quite another to refuse to accept something merely on the grounds that it is against our traditionally held concepts. Please remember, the world today does not believe in the earth’s being spherical merely on the grounds that it ‘can’ be true; on the contrary, it ascribes to this view on basis of empirical evidence.

You write:

…it would be expected that if the Universe was so convincing then those who study and understand it most would be most convinced by it, so why do the majority of experts in these fields not believe?

That would ultimately depend on the nature and scope of one’s study. Those who have taken up the study of the universe have done so for understanding its physical structure and working. They have generally not derived results regarding its creator from this study. In deriving these results they would be as reliable or unreliable as any other person, because these results are not specific to their field of expertise only. Just as every biologist is not a believer in God, similarly every expert of the study of the universe may not be a believer in the Creator.

The real question, in my opinion, is not whether a particular person or class of persons believes in God or not, but whether the alternative explanation given by such a non-believer in God is plausible or not.

You write:

In one of your answers it is said that the Qur’an is free of contradiction and that this is a universal sign of its divine nature? How can this be a “universal sign” when the translations aren’t the same as the original and therefore can contain contradictions?

The fact remains that the original text of the Qur’an is available to everyone who wants to read it. If one is not well versed in the Arabic language, he still has the opportunity to refer to those who are. Nevertheless, if one has taken up such a serious study of the Qur’an as to determine contradictions in it, one should at least furnish oneself with the ability of understanding the Book in its original language and, thus, not be relying on an allegedly faulty translation of the Book.

You write:

Besides, you also say in one of your answers about the transmission of the Qur’an that some verses may have been left out and that the Book went through a final revision before it’s end to make it clearer – what for? Why? If it is perfect, why revise it? How do we know that what was left out was not contradictory?

The Qur’an was initially revealed according to the requirements of the time1. Those parts may, subsequently, have been removed which were related specifically to the particular environment and, according to its author, did not entail a permanent guidance. As for the fact that the Qur’an claims itself to be devoid of all human weaknesses, it remains a valid argument, because the book was presented in its final form during the life of the Prophet (pbuh) and did not go through any editing after the death of the Prophet (pbuh). All those aspects of human works which amount to “contradictions” with reference to the Qur’anic claim are present in all human works, even after they go through all the editing and revision. Such ‘contradictions’ are such an inherent and natural part of human works that any number of editing and revision fails to remove them2.

I hope this helps.

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